The gifts that weave community cannot be mere superficialities; they must meet real needs. Only then do they inspire gratitude and create the obligations that bind people together. The difficulty in creating community today is that when people meet all their needs with money, there is nothing left to give.
~ Charles Eisenstein, in Sacred Economics
One late evening when I was busy working on the building of this site, Maya called out from upstairs. It was all dark up there, and we quickly found out one of the three main fuses had blown. In the next breath, we realized that we were out of fuses. The idea of swapping them around, still left us with only three choices: no hot water in the shower, no power to the fridge and freezer in the kitchen, or no power to the other freezer in the basement.
The shower option was no option to Maya who was standing there naked, on her way into the bathroom with our two-year-old daughter. The other two options were no-goes too, and it was after closing hours of any suitable shop we could think of…
That’s when we recalled the new neighbourhood app we had just joined: Nextdoor.
Maya sent out our call for urgent help. Only five minutes later I had collected a fuse from a, previously unknown, neighbour at the other end of the street who had also just joined the app. Wow, that felt so good!
A couple of days later Maya walked back to that neighbour to return our gratitude in physical form: a whole package of fuses. Wow, that felt really good too!
This experience made me think: maybe apps like Nextdoor, even though as commercial as anything, can facilitate a step in the right direction. A step into the dawning Age of Reunion where human communities are being healed, along with relationships, cultures, ecosystems, and the planet… Can they?
When Nextdoor launched, an article in The Washington Post said that it “seems poised to ride the wave of people’s desire to connect back to their community”. (Source: Wikipedia) The company itself markets themselves thus:
”Nextdoor is . . . the easiest way for you and your neighbors to talk online and make all of your lives better in the real world. And it’s free. Thousands of neighborhoods are already using Nextdoor to build happier, safer places to call home.
People are using Nextdoor to:
- Quickly get the word out about a break-in
- Organize a Neighborhood Watch Group
- Track down a trustworthy babysitter
- Find out who does the best paint job in town
- Ask for help keeping an eye out for a lost dog
- Find a new home for an outgrown bike
- Finally call that nice man down the street by his first name
Nextdoor’s mission is to provide a trusted platform where neighbors work together to build stronger, safer, happier communities, all over the world.”
That all sounds kind of great, doesn’t it?
But… there is one MAJOR snag: the investors.
Benchmark Capital, Shasta Ventures, Rich Barton, and the other investors of Nextdoor, expect their investments to return profit. Here is a quote from Charles Eisenstein’s Sacred Economics to clarify the distinction between traditional investment and investment TRULY geared at the restoration of human communities (the social commons):
Traditional investment . . . seeks to contribute to the growth of the money realm and gain a part of that contribution as a reward. The venture capitalist identifies high-growth opportunities and provides the money to bring them to fruition. In a steady-state or degrowth economy, this model is no longer appropriate, just as it feels no longer appropriate for more and more people in the investing class – hence the turn toward a different investment goal: the restoration, and not the more efficient exploitation, of the natural and social commons. Let me restate: there is no money to be made for the investors in such restoration. Any ‘socially conscious investment’ scheme that promises a normal rate of return harbors a lie, whether consciously or not.
Now, as this article in The New York Times clearly illustrates, Nextdoor – who say they are dedicated to stronger, safer, and happier communities – is no exception to any other traditionally operating company. There is nothing whatsoever to indicate that the investors in Nextdoor will be satisfied unless their investments return profit. And, as constitutes the foundational analysis of both Charles Eisenstein’s Sacred Economics and our site, THIS (the perpetual profit-seeking that demands perpetual growth of the money-realm) IS, fundamentally, what SYSTEMATICALLY destroys our communities (and relationships, cultures, ecosystems, and planet).
Nextdoor, thus, as any “socially conscious” company operating within the traditional growth economy, is (whether consciously or not) stuck in a self-contradictory situation. One of Nextdoor’s core values is to “invest in community”. The question is only what their investors are all investing in…
Okay… so, while Maya and I keep enjoying getting to know our neighbours better through the Nextdoor app, our main focus remains on the real, non-profit ways of starting to restore our human communities.
What are those ways?
We’d like to say that HERE is one: the Tea Flag!
Maya and I are looking forward with much anticipation to see what will happen in our street once we get our flag up. (We intend to put some info material at the gate to our little front yard, as well.) We’ve been thinking of making our own flag, and the other day we went to the largest second-hand store in the area to look for a flag holder to attach to the brick wall of our house. We didn’t find one though. So now we’re considering buying the whole flag set new (once we gather a little money). In our there-is-a-monetized-service-for-everything times, the online service of customizing your own flag is of course no exception…
Today, we had a friend, Marie-Paule, over for tea. She lives in an apartment, but she won’t let that stop her: she has her own ideas on how to show to the world that she is part of the Tea Flag project; and also about what groups of people may especially appreciate it. You will be hearing more from her soon…
Maya and Shanto